What began as an assignment in a woodworking class in the fall has now developed into a part-time business for a ninth-grader from Franklin Junior High School.
Peter van der Hagen, 14, Baxter, went to the Brainerd Public Library this fall to look at bird feeder design books for a woodworking class project. He found a unique leaf design he liked and set to work making it. He had never taken a woodworking class before this school year.
He then made another and another, figuring out he could possibly sell his airbrushed leaf feeders to family and friends to give as Christmas gifts. The feeders are designed to look like oak, maple, sycamore or birch leaves. Two long metal skewers are inserted into the feeder to hold an apple, orange or suet.
His dad, Dr. Jon van der Hagen, told his co-workers at the hospital about his son's bird feeders. They asked him to bring them in, and Peter quickly sold 14 of his feeders.
So in addition to mowing lawns and washing cars, the entrepreneurial teen has now created his own business, Vast North Feeders, in his parents' garage as a way to sell his bird feeders. He borrows his dad's woodworking equipment to make his feeders, but said he has to pay a portion of his profits to his parents as a business expense for using the equipment.
The business venture, said his father, has been a good learning experience and a creative outlet for his son.
"I think he's a very creative kid," said van der Hagen, who performs the more dangerous woodcutting for his son. "The feeders have given him a business sense, a sense for the value of his time and a way to expand his creative abilities. The money-making is a small portion of it."
Peter recently started building prototypes for birdhouses he plans to build. His parents bought him a book on building birdhouses for Christmas. He's also coming up with new bird feeder designs.
"When I make these, I think about what my grandma would like," said Peter, who conceded he's more interested in woodworking than feeding birds.
With the help of his cousin, he recently designed his own Web site to sell his woodworking wares, www.vastnorthfeeders.com. The site has pictures of the feeders and an electronic order form. Cost of the leaf feeders are $11 each. He also plans to sell his crafts at area art and craft shows this summer.
Those without Internet access who would like to order or obtain more information about Peter's leaf bird feeders can write to him at 2700 S. Scenic River Drive, Baxter, MN 56425.
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